I joined a visit by the House of Lords All-Party London Group to the 2012 Olympic Park site this morning. The transformation of the site since I last went is impressive. The shape and structure of the Olympic Stadium, the Acquatic Centre and the Velodrome are all clear, as is the outline of the Olympic Village and other facilities such as the International Media Centre.
It is easy to see why the International Olympic Committee are so pleased with the progress that London is making towards July 2012. I remember visiting Athens four months before they hosted the 2004 Olympics. With just sixteen weeks to go the Athens site felt just as much of a building site as Stratford does with thirty-three months to go.
Some of my colleagues slightly overwhelmed our guides with their detailed questions (“Where do the sewers go?”; “What limits are there on architects using their involvement in Olympic projects for their own marketing?” etc). Nevertheless, all were impressed with the progress being made, the sheer scale of the project, and the efforts being made to make the project environmentally and economically sustainable (a large number of jobs and apprenticeships have gone to local people, transport is being improved so that virtually all visitors to the Games will go by public transport etc).
(Incidentally, the Olympic Delivery Authority organises free bus tours for anyone who wants to go – not just interested members of the House of Lords. To book a place phone 0300 2012 001.)
Progress has been so good that I understand that the Olympic Development Authority now intends to hand the Olympic Park over to LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) earlier than expected. This may well be unprecedented. It was certainly not budgeted for. As a result, LOCOG will have to find tens of millions of pounds extra to cover the security and management costs for the Park for the extra months.